Focus Fortnight: Kindness

Monday 13th November was World Kindness Day, and kicked off our Focus Fortnight on our core value of Kindness. Over this two weeks we are encouraging all students, staff and members of the Academy community to make a special effort to carry out acts of kindness for one another. Here are some of the suggestions that have been made:

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There are global movements like Random Acts of Kindness and Pay It Forward which are founded on the idea that if each of us acts kindly towards another person for no other reason than that it’s a nice thing – the right thing – to do, it has the cumulative effect of making the world better for all of us. This is something that is really important to us at Churchill, which is why it is one of our three core values. It was also the theme of my Kindness Assembly back in March.

When we do something nice for no reason, everybody benefits. We feel better; we make somebody else’s life better too. Not just this fortnight, but from now on, we want to make sure that we all choose kindness. Do something nice for somebody else. Help one another. Not because there’s anything in it for us, but because when we do something kind, we’ve made school a nicer place for someone else to be. And if it’s a nicer place for someone else, it’ll be nicer for us too. So when we choose kindness, everybody benefits.

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You can take a “Be Kind” pledge on the This Morning website here, and view some more “kindness” videos below:

If you’ve noticed a special act of kindness, please let us know in the comments or contact the Academy. Thank you!

Year 7 Learning Groups: Humanities Heroes

There’s a long tradition of naming our Key Stage 3 Learning Groups at Churchill around a particular theme. The current Year 8 groups are named after endangered or at-risk species: Panda, Turtle, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard, Tiger, Gorilla, Rhino, and Polar Bear. There’s a great display in the ground floor Science corridor giving more details about these animals, and the work of the World Wildlife Fund to help protect them.

It’s the turn of the Humanities Faculty this year, so the learning groups in Year 7 have been named after British heroes from the fields of History, Geography, and Philosophy and Ethics. Hence we have 7Brunel, 7Seacole, 7Anscombe, 7Attenborough, 7Fiennes, 7Kingsley, 7Davison, 7Locke and 7Hume being taught right across the Academy! This week Mrs Amer, Director of Humanities, has been telling the students more about these Humanities heroes in assemblies. So here’s a run-down of who the learning groups are named after…

Brunel

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was named as one of the greatest Britons in a BBC poll. A famous engineer, he spent much of his life in Bristol where he designed the Great Western Railway, Temple Meads Station, the SS Great Britain, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge amongst many more achievements.

Hume

Allan Ramsay, David Hume, 1711 - 1776. Historian and philosopher

David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher and historian, best known for developing the system known as empiricism. He argued that all human knowledge is based on experiences; he also investigated the concept of miracles and put forward opposing scientific arguments.

Kingsley

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Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) was an explorer. At a time when it was unheard of for women travel alone, Kingsley explored central and west Africa. Her work was vital in helping Europeans understand African cultures and the effects of the British Empire. Kingsley also took an important stand against slavery.

Davison

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Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) was a suffragette who campaigned for votes for women. She was arrested nine times for her protests, went on hunger strike seven times, and was force-fed in prison forty-five times. She died after being hit by King George V’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby when she walked onto the track during the race to protest for votes for women. Women were finally given the vote in 1918.

Locke

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John Locke (1632-1704) was a philosopher who is known as the “Father of Liberalism.” One of the earliest empiricists, he was one of the first thinkers to define the self as a continuity of consciousness. He was also a believer in the importance of proof: for Locke, ideas had to be capable of being tested repeatedly, and nothing was exempt from being disproven. Locke was also born in Wrington!

Fiennes

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Sir Ranulph Fiennes (1944- ) is an explorer and writer. He was the first person to visit the North and South Poles by surface means, and the first to cross the continent of Antarctica on foot. In 2009, at the age of 65, he became the oldest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Seacole

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Mary Seacole (1805-1881) was born in Jamaica. She was born mixed race, to a Scottish father and a free Jamaican mother. She overcame Victorian racial prejudice to serve as an outstanding nurse during the Crimean War and was named as the greatest black Briton in a 2004 BBC poll.

Anscombe

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Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001) was Professor of Philosophy at both Oxford and Cambridge. Her greatest work focused on the ideas of intention, action, and practical reason. Well known for being outspoken and opinionated, when accosted by a mugger in the street she told her attacker that it was ‘no way to treat a stranger’ – they stopped and talked instead.

Attenborough

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Sir David Attenborough (1926- ), the well-known broadcaster and naturalist, has done more perhaps than any living person to raise awareness of animal, plant and marine life on Earth, and the impact of human activity on the environment. Attenborough’s appetite for discovery demonstrated our core value of curiosity; he famously said:

“I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored.”

His most recent project, Blue Planet II, is currently being shown on BBC1.

We hope that naming our learning groups after such significant individuals will help raise awareness of their contribution to History, Geography, and Philosophy and Ethics and broaden our students’ understanding of these figures. What will we name our groups next year? Leave a comment with your suggestions!

Training to teach

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Churchill Academy’s cohort of trainee teachers 2017

This week I’ve had the privilege of working with our newest cohort of trainee teachers, who have started their teaching practice placements with us. Training the next generation of teachers is a vital part of the work of the Academy, and our school community is enriched by the new ideas and energy that our trainees bring to us each year.

I always wanted to be a teacher. My Grandad, both parents, my cousin and my uncle are teachers; it’s our family trade! As a teenager I did summer jobs teaching music and drama on performing arts and activity camps, and I did work experience in local schools. I went straight into a PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education) from University. I promised myself that, if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d stop – but I loved it, and I’ve never looked back.

Even though I trained as a secondary English teacher, my course began with a two-week primary school experience. Where better to start than right at the beginning? I went to a primary school on the outskirts of Nottingham and worked with a mixed Year 5/6 class. I started with some small group work. I remember helping the class teacher hand-crank the Banda machine to get my worksheets off to do some technical accuracy work with a group of six hand-picked students. Here’s my crib sheet from my very first try at “proper teaching”:

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Hand-cranked Banda-machine worksheet from pre-photocopier days, in purple ink with red pen notes from my younger self!

And then, in the last days of the fortnight, it was time to take the whole class. I was going to get them to do some creative writing based on a piece of music. I cranked the Banda machine, I planned my lesson with the class teacher, I psyched myself up. Then, the class teacher stepped out. It was over to me.

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Worksheet from my first ever full-class lesson

I don’t remember much about the lesson, if I’m honest. What I do remember – what I’ll never forget – was the debrief with the teacher afterwards. “How do you think it went?” she asked, kindly. “It was okay…” I said, hesitantly. “And were you comfortable with the noise level?” she asked. A sure sign of a skilful teacher: giving me the opportunity to learn from failure and improve. Here’s what I wrote in my evaluation:

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Evaluation of my first lesson

“I learned that success does not come from rushing into things, but from taking things slowly.” The first lesson wasn’t brilliant, but the second was better. I learned, very early on, that it’s okay not to get something perfectly right first time, provided you learn from it and do better the next time. This has stayed with me to this day.

My primary school experience journal ended with a series of reflection tasks. The final question was: “How do you now see yourself as a beginning teacher?” Here’s what I wrote:

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How I saw myself, as a beginning teacher, in 1996

“Ahead of me now I see a lot of hard work; an almost infeasible amount. However, my work with LF has given me a set of goals, and another role model to emulate, and my enjoyment of the experience has proved that no matter how high the mountains of work, the reward of a child proud of his or her success or achievement makes it all worthwhile.”

Nothing has really changed since then: there is still nothing better than seeing a student proud of what they’ve achieved. I’m quite envious of our new trainees: they have so much to look forward to.

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If you’re thinking of a career in teaching, there a lots of ways to get into the profession. We run School Experience Days at Churchill where you can find out what it’s like to be in the classroom, and learn more about routes into teaching. For more details, see the “Train with us” page on the Academy website.

Alternatively, the Get Into Teaching website gives all the information you need about training to teach. There is a free Get into Teaching event in Bath on Saturday 11th November 2017, where colleagues from Churchill and a range of local providers will be on hand to answer any questions about teaching or teacher training. Click here to register.

What is a growth mindset?

One of the principles of our approach to education at Churchill is the development of a growth mindset. But what exactly is it?

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Growth mindset is an idea developed by Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University in the USA. Your mindset is what you believe about yourself and your abilities. Dweck’s research into this idea – what she originally called “self-theories” – revealed that some people have what she calls a “fixed mindset.” In the fixed mindset, you believe that your qualities are carved in stone. You are born with a certain amount of ability, and that is all there is to it. Some people are better than you. Other people are not as good as you. But your abilities are fixed, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Other people, Dweck discovered, have a “growth mindset.” In a growth mindset, you believe that the abilities and qualities you are born with can be developed and cultivated through effort, application, experience and practice. With the growth mindset in place, we see challenging situations as opportunities to learn and grow. When we make a mistake in our reading or writing, we learn from it and improve the next time we come across that word or that expression. When the teacher asks a question, we think about it, and we are happy to explore it together with our classmates to help refine and develop our thinking, leading to greater and deeper understanding. The process helps us to improve. To grow. And even if we don’t know the answer right now, if we work at it, listen carefully, and apply ourselves, we will know it soon. In the growth mindset, Dweck suggests, the priority is “learn at all times and at all costs.”

The best way to understand the ideas behind mindsets is to listen to Carol Dweck herself. This video is an illustrated version of a talk she gave to the RSA in 2015, explaining some of her research and what it means for learning. Take ten minutes to have a watch – it could change your life!

 

Churchill’s Vision: to set no limits on what we can achieve

Vision and Values

Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s Vision and Values

Last month I wrote about Churchill’s new values of kindness, curiosity and determination. These values underpin our vision: to set no limits on what we can achieve. Our intention is to unleash that unknown potential that sits within each and every one of our students. We try to ensure that there is always a next step, always an extra challenge, always that encouragement to push yourself further. But we also take time to build confidence, because often the biggest barrier to students’ achievement is not the grown-ups around them telling them they can’t but that nagging voice inside their own mind which says “I can’t do it.” Or “I’ll never be as good as them.” Or “it’s too difficult.” Our whole ethos and approach here at Churchill is to equip students with an inner voice to talk back to themselves, so “I can’t do it” becomes “I can’t do it…yet.” “I’ll never be as good as them,” becomes “I’m going to learn how they do it so I can do it too.” And “it’s too hard” becomes “this is going to take time and effort, but I’m going to learn how.”

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This approach underpins our guiding purpose, to inspire and enable young people to make a positive difference both whilst they are here at the Academy but, perhaps more importantly, after they leave us. An education at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form provides young people with the knowledge, skills, character and confidence to make their own positive contribution. If we do our job right, the world our children will build will be better than the one we live in now.

The vision and purpose lead us to our end result. We have the highest expectations of achievement and progress within the curriculum, because achieving the best possible qualifications brings with it the benefit of choice. But achievement is more than that – it’s about young people finding their identity, their voice, and the self-confidence and determination to take the next step and make their mark.

These principles, underpinned by our values, guide our work at Churchill. We thank all our staff, students and families for supporting us in working towards these ambitious goals.

The new Science and Technology Building

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Science and Catering students Hannah, Caitlin, Jasmine and Shannon joined me, along with Laurence Wright and Ashley Mutch from H. Mealing & Sons, on Monday for the official “cutting the ground” ceremony for the new Science and Technology building.

This has been a really exciting week! We found out back in April that we had been awarded £3.9 million as part of the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Condition Improvement Fund to replace the ageing facilities in Tudor with a brand new building. Since then Mr Branch has been working flat out in collaboration with our architects, Quattro, the legal team, building contractors, the planners and the Science and Technology staff to finalise the plans, schedules and designs for the building. Finally, on Monday, work began with the first diggers starting the excavations.

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I got to sit in a JCB!

A bigger project

We already have experience in developing a new build with the Alan Turing Building, but this is almost twice the size. At almost 14,000 square metres, the new build will contain twelve new Science laboratories and two new catering classrooms, along with the necessary prep rooms and offices for staff. A Science block brings with it all kinds of challenges that “normal” buildings don’t have, including fume cupboards and gas taps, but also facilities for the safe storage of nuclear materials and hazardous chemicals. And we are determined that the catering facilities will be state-of-the-art too, with all-new equipment for our students to cook up a storm with!

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Shannon, Caitlin, Hannah and Jasmine wanted a go too!

A look at the plans

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One of the highlights of our visit to the site compound on Monday was a chance to look through the plans. From the landscaping that is going to take place around the building, to the plans for the pathway to get access around the Sports Centre, and particularly to the room plans, it was amazing to see the drawings of how the building will look. The contractors have also marked out the footprint of the building on the ground this week – it’s going to be huge.

What’s next?

Later this year we’re going to be running a competition with our students to choose the name for the new Science and Technology block. Students will research famous female scientists, and present to Senior Leaders and Governors their pitches for why they think our building should be named after their chosen individual. The most persuasive presentation will win! We hope that this will provide inspiration for students using the building over the next sixty years to pursue innovation and excellence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and overcome the inequality which is currently a big issue in that sector.

The third and final phase of our Tudor block project will be the demolition of the existing building, and the redevelopment of the site where the building has stood for over 60 years. We had the first planning meeting about phase three this week, as we prepare our next bid. By the end of 2019, the whole Academy site will look very different indeed!

Behaviour for learning

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Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s Attitude to Learning Scale

This year at Churchill we have made behaviour our number one priority. We wanted to build on our already high standards to ensure the very best behaviour and conduct from all our students, all the time.

In March this year the government published an independent review of behaviour in schools. The report’s author, Tom Bennett, says:

“A student’s experience in school remains one of the most insightful indicators of later life success in any one of a number of metrics. For many it is the best chance they will ever have to flourish. How they conduct themselves at school is crucial to that experience. Helping them develop good behaviour is therefore one of the most important tasks a school faces…

…Whatever one believes the aims of education to be, all of [them] are best realised in schools where good behaviour is the norm, and antisocial, selfish, or self-destructive behaviour is minimised.”

It’s hard to argue with Bennett’s conclusions. Here at Churchill we believe that good behaviour is the foundation upon which a successful education is built. It’s a minimum expectation that students at Churchill will be polite, well-mannered, and tolerant, but we expect not just compliance but active participation in learning and taking responsibility for the choices they make. That’s why we use the Attitude to Learning Scale (pictured above) alongside the Code of Conduct (below) to help our students understand our expectations of them.

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Churchill Academy Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct lays out our expectations of student behaviour in, around and beyond the Academy; the Attitude to Learning Scale helps students understand the things they need to do in lessons to ensure they are making the most of their opportunities to learn and make progress.

Each subject reports on Attitude to Learning in every progress check, but teachers can now reward students for demonstrating “Highly Motivated” attitudes in lessons at any time through our new rewards system. Similarly, whilst students may receive concerns for breaking the Code of Conduct, we are now placing an increased emphasis on giving rewards to those who consistently meet or exceed our expectations. Our aim is to use this positive reinforcement to ensure that those students who behave well consistently are recognised for their part in building a culture where exemplary behaviour and attitude to learning is the norm. It is this interplay between behaviour and attitude to learning that ensures the best chance of success in school.

Our staff and students have responded brilliantly to this new focus. Since the start of the term, our 1481 students have been awarded a staggering 8335 reward points for attitude to learning alone, alongside over 2000 for excellent classwork and homework and 1148 for demonstrating our values of kindness, curiosity and determination or making a contribution to Academy life. In total, across all categories, our students have been awarded 12,794 reward points in three weeks!

It’s safe to say it’s been a good start to the year.

The Opening of Churchill School

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 20th September, 1957, Churchill Secondary Modern School was officially opened by the Rt. Hon. J. Chuter Ede, C.H., D.L., M.P., President of the County Councils Association. We still have the programme from that event  in our archive, which you can view below:

The first Headmaster, Mr R. J. Dennis, recorded the occasion in the School Log Book:

Log Book Opening September 1957

At that time, Churchill County Secondary School had 402 students on roll, distributed as follows:

  • V – 24
  • IVa – 28
  • Upper IVb – 25
  • Lower IVb – 24
  • Lower Remove – 14
  • IIIa – 30
  • Upper IIIb – 26
  • Lower IIIb – 19
  • IIa – 35
  • Upper IIb – 32
  • Lower IIb – 26
  • Lower Remove – 20
  • I S – 30
  • I L – 32
  • I K – 37

The school has gone through many changes since then, firstly becoming a comprehensive in 1969. It then became Churchill Community School in 1996, before becoming a foundation school in 2007 (when it became known as Churchill Community Foundation School and Sixth Form Centre). Finally, on 1st August 2011, the school became Churchill Academy & Sixth Form.

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The original school logo, as awarded to the school’s first Head Boy in 1957.

As of September 2017, 1,481 students attend Churchill Academy & Sixth Form: 733 boys, 748 girls, 264 sixth formers and 1,217 in the main school. Even as we work towards the decommissioning and eventual demolition of the original 1957 building, the school which was opened sixty years ago in Churchill is going strong.

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Churchill’s Values: Kindness, Curiosity, Determination

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Our values are what we judge to be important in life; they are the principles and standards that govern our behaviour. We spent the summer term thinking long and hard about what we valued, and what we should value, as a school. A group of sixteen staff volunteers worked together to develop our ideas, before representatives from each of the main school tutor groups and the Sixth Form council offered their views.  The Governing Body formally adopted Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s new values in July 2017.

The values are designed to guide our behaviour and decision-making in everything we do at the Academy. Our three values are kindness, curiosity, and determination.

Kindness

At Churchill, we are kind to one another. This means that we are considerate and generous every day, caring for one another and doing everything we can to make sure everybody else has a good day at school. Kindness reinforces our shared sense of community; it builds trust and respect; and it ensures that we take our social responsibilities seriously.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” (Amelia Earhart)

Curiosity

At Churchill, we are constantly curious and hungry for new learning. We value enquiring minds and a spirit of exploration. The desire to know or learn something new motivates us to try our hardest in everything we do.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled” (Plutarch)

Determination

At Churchill, we are persistent and relentless in the pursuit of our goals – both academic and personal. This determination to keep going when learning is difficult, and to come back and try again when we struggle, helps us to succeed.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” (Thomas Edison)

 

Thank you to all the staff, students and Governors who contributed to the work on our vision and values.

 

 

How families can support learning

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Welcome back to another new school year! Our students have made an excellent start and they are ready to learn and raring to go. This year we are taking our next steps in developing the learning culture at the Academy, focusing on students taking responsibility for their own learning, progress, attitude and behaviour. As part of this, there are three key strategies families can use to support students’ learning at home.

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  1. Praise the process, not the product

Research shows that praising children for their intelligence – “you’re so clever!”, “wow, you’re so great at Maths!” – can actually harm their motivation by making them believe that they should find the work easy. Instead, when your children get great results or do well, try something like: “that’s great – can you tell me how you did it?” This is more helpful as it will provoke a conversation around strategies, techniques and approaches, showing that your interest is not so much in the product as the process. Instead of saying “you’re so good at English/Art/Science” and so on, try “you’ve really pushed yourself on this project – it’s great to see you working so hard at it.” Instead of “you’re so clever/brilliant/wonderful,” try “I’m so proud of the way you’ve put your time and energy into this,” or “we’re so happy to see that you persevered with this – it was worth all that effort, wasn’t it?”

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  1. Embrace struggle

We have an instinct to rush to praise when children “get” something quickly or produce perfect work first time. However, if students find something quick and easy to grasp, the likelihood is that they either knew it (or something very like it) already, or that the level of challenge was too low. Try asking your children after they get home: “what did you find difficult today?” Praise children when they struggle, because that shows that they’re trying, pushing themselves to do something difficult. That’s the attitude we encourage. Seek out challenging tasks for your children to do, and challenging texts for them to read, to reinforce the message that we give in school: if you’re finding it easy, you’re not learning anything. If you’re struggling, you’re learning.

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  1. Use the power of “yet”

“Yet” can help when students fail, or when they are in the midst of the struggle to master a new and challenging concept. “I can’t do it,” or “I’ll never get it,” or “I’ve never been able to do this,” can be turned around with “…yet.” Learning is a process, and students are always on an upward curve. If they can’t do it today, they’ll have to try again tomorrow, perhaps coming at it from a different angle or using a different strategy. As Thomas Edison famously said: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” If you struggled with Maths or languages or spelling at school, by all means share that struggle with your children, but share it with the determination that they will be able to conquer it if they apply themselves and get the help and support they need – giving up is not an option.

I’d like to thank our families for all the support you give to Churchill’s students and to the Academy as a whole. We couldn’t do it without you!